Native Flora and Fauna 

Native Flora 

  • Pond cypress and bald cypress are the two species of cypress trees found in the Everglades

cypress swamp

Cypress Swamp courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Two species of cypress reside within the Everglades, the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens). These trees were harvested during the early to mid 1900s. The durable wood from these cypress were used to make shingles, siding, cross ties, fenceposts, and picklebarrels. Second growth cypress is what primarily remains visible today.

bald cypress

Bald cypress tree. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

bald cypress tree

Bald cypress. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service

The bald cypress grows to heights of 150 feet (45 m) or more, in or along flowing water such as rivers and springs. Characteristics include enlarged bases with buttresses, pale brown bark that sheds in strips, and light green, soft leaves growing in a single plane along both sides of the horizontal branches. The knees of this cypress tree are pointed and conical in shape.

pond cypress

Leaves of the pond pypress. Photo courtesy NOAA

pond cypress tree

Pond cypress trees. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

The pond cypress is smaller than the bald cypress and thrives near ponds with slow-moving or still water. In the Everglades, this cypress grows in low-nutrient soils resulting in slow growth. These trees are often referred to as dwarf cypress or "hat-rack" cypress. In contrast with the bald cypress, the pond cypress knees are rounded and blunt at the tips. Also the leaves are spirally arranged rather than in a single plane as with the bald cypress.

Other trees found within cypress swamps include:

cypress, slash pine

Slash pine (Pinus elliotii). Photo courtesy NOAA

cypress, red maple

Red maple (Acer rubrum). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

 
cypress, swamp tupelo

Swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora). Photo © Steve Baskauf

cypress, wax myrtle

Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera). Photo courtesy NOAA

 
  • swamp bay (Persea palustris) [not shown]

Along with trees, other plants such as fetterbush (Leucothoe populufolia) and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) as well as ferns, grasses, sedges, and vining plants are found in cypress swamps.

bromeliad

Bromeliad. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

cypress, spanish moss

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

An epiphyte is a plant that grows on other living plants for support but does not harm the host plant. These include bromeliads, orchids, air plants, and spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) which all thrive among the trunk and branches of cypress trees. 

Shrubs and groundcover grow along the outer edges of cypress swamps, including:

cypress, marshpink

Marsh pink (Sabatia stellaris). Photo courtesy National Park Service

cypress, meadow beauty

Meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

 
cypress, alligator lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri). Photo courtesy National Park Service

pickerel weed

Pickerel Weed © Frithjof Holmboe, California Academy of Sciences

 
  • yellow-eyed grass (Xyris difformis) [not shown]

 

Native Fauna

  • Aquatic life is more diverse and abundant than terrestrial life within cypress swamps

American gator

American Alligator. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Although cypress habitats support few species of terrestrial wildlife, the water within cypress domes does support a variety of aquatic life. Invertebrates including crayfish, dragonfly larvae, and snails provide food for small fish and wading birds.

cypress, mosquitofish

Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

cypress, flagfish

Flagfish (Jordanella floridae). Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Golden topminnow

Golden topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus). Photo courtesy Noel Burkhead/Howard Jelks, U.S. Geological Survey

Common fishes in these shallow marsh habitats include marsh killifish (Fundulus confluentus), golden topminnows (Fundulus chrysotus), flagfish (Jordanella floridae), and the mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki). These fish are adapted for survival in aquatic habitats that dry seasonally. The marsh killifish is able to survive complete dessication by burying their eggs in the muds while the adult fish perish. These eggs hatch when flooding occurs at the beginning of the wet season, continuing the survival of the species. Other small fish, such as the mosquitofish, take refuge in rock cavities or crayfish burrows that maintain water levels until the rains come in the summer.

During the dry season, reptiles and amphibians frequent cypress domes in search of moisture. These species include:

cypress, bullfrog

Bull frog (Rana catesbeiana). Photo courtesy Mike Mossman/U.S. Geological Survey

cypress, grass frog

Little grass frog (Pseudacris ocularis). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

estuaries, alligator, full length

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

cypress, eastern cottonmouth

Eastern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). Photo courtesy U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 
cypress, brown watersnake

Brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota). Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

cypress, leopard frog

Leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala). Photo © Kenneth Krysko

cypress, softshell turtle

Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox). Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District

cypress, snapping turtle

Florida snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina osceola). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

 
  • South Florida swamp snake (Seminatrix pygaea cyclas) [not shown]

Cypress habitats are prime areas for feeding and nesting birds, including many that have threatened or endangered status. One example is the wood stork (Mycteria americana), an endangered species that is entirely dependent upon the wetlands of Florida. Within cypress swamps, this bird feeds on small freshwater fish and nests in the trees.

wood storks

Wood storks (Mycteria americana). Photo © Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences

cypress, tricolor heron

Tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor). Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Other year-round residents include:

mangrove, cormorant

Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

anhinga bird

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey



cypress, wild turkey

Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Photo courtesy A. Wilson/U.S. Geological Survey



cypress, wood duck

Wood duck (Aix sponsa). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

limpkin

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna). Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Raptors include:

mangrove, osprey

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Photo courtesy NOAA

estuaries, bald eagle

Southern Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus). Photo © John White

cypress, short tail hawk

Short-tailed hawk (Buteo brachyurus ). Photo courtesy Peter S. Weber/ U.S. Geological Survey

Mammals residing in the cypress swamps include:

mink

Mink (Mustela vison). Photo © Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences

cypress, beaver

Beaver (Castor canadensis). Photo courtesy Bill Banazewski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

river otter

River Otter (Lutra canadensis). Photo courtesy National Park Service

 graysquirrel

Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

raccoon

Raccoon (Procyon lotor). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi) utilize cypress habitats for daytime bedding.

hammocks, whitetail deer

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

florida panther

Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi). Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District